Colonial Pipeline’s CEO has acknowledged that his company paid a multi-million ransom to cyber-criminals.
Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Joseph Blount justified the $4.4 million payment by saying that executives were unsure how badly its systems were breached or how long it would take to restore the pipeline.
The 5,500-mile Colonial Pipeline Co system was closed last week after one of the most disruptive cyberattacks on record, preventing millions of barrels of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from flowing to the East Coast from the Gulf Coast.
Blount told the WSJ he paid the extortion money for the greater good:
“I know that’s a highly controversial decision,” Blount was quoted as saying. “I didn’t make it lightly. I will admit that I wasn’t comfortable seeing money go out the door to people like this.”
Blount said the decision had been “the right thing to do for the country.”
The ransomware attack came just ahead of the Memorial Day holiday weekend at the end of May, the traditional start of peak-demand summer driving season.
The Southeast US bore the brunt of the outage, as the region is almost entirely without refineries.
According to reports, panic buying caused 90% of fuel stations in Washington, DC to run out. Outages in North Carolina fell to about 50%, and outages in South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia were under 50%, GasBuddy said.
The national gas price on Monday rose to $3.045 a gallon, the highest since October 2014, according to data from the American Automobile Association.
This week the FBI officially confirmed that DarkSide was responsible for compromising Colonial Pipeline’s networks, saying that it was continuing to work with the firm and other government agencies on the investigation.